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The Grass Roots had a series of major hits -- most notably "Let's Live for Today," "Midnight Confessions," "Temptation Eyes," and "Two Divided by Love" -- that help define the essence of the era's best AM radio. Although the group's members weren't even close to being recognizable, and their in-house songwriting was next to irrelevant, the Grass Roots managed to chart 14 Top 40 hits, including seven gold singles and one platinum single, and two had hits collections that effortlessly went gold. The group's history is also fairly complicated, because there were at least three different groups involved in the making of the songs identified as being by "the Grass Roots."
The Grass Roots was originated by the writer/producer team of P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri as a pseudonym under which they would release a body of Byrds/Beau Brummels-style folk-rock. Sloan and Barri were contracted songwriters for Trousdale Music, the publishing arm of Dunhill Records, which wanted to cash in on the folk-rock boom of 1965. Dunhill asked Sloan and Barri to come up with this material, and a group alias under which they would release it. The resulting "Grass Roots" debut song, "Where Were You When I Needed You," sung by Sloan, was sent to a Los Angeles radio station, which began playing it. The problem was, there was no "Grass Roots." The next step was to recruit a band that could become the Grass Roots. Sloan found a San Francisco group called the Bedouins that seemed promising on the basis of their lead singer, Bill Fulton. Fulton recorded a new vocal over the backing tracks laid down for the P.F. Sloan version of the song. The Bedouins were, at first, content to put their future in the hands of Sloan and Barri as producers, despite the fact that the group was more blues-oriented than folk-rock. However, the rest of the group was offended when Fulton was told to record their debut single, a cover of Bob Dylan's "The Ballad of a Thin Man," backed by studio musicians. When that single, released in October of 1965, became only a modest hit, the Bedouins -- except for their drummer, Joel Larson -- departed for San Francisco, to re-form as the Unquenchable Thirst. Sloan and Barri continued to record. "Where Were You When I Needed You" was released in mid-'66 and peaked at number 28, but the album of the same name never charted.
Amid the machinations behind Where Were You When I Needed You, no "real" Grass Roots band existed in 1966. A possible solution came along when a Los Angeles band called the 13th Floor submitted a demo tape to Dunhill. This group, consisting of Warren Entner (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Creed Bratton (lead guitar), Rob Grill (vocals, bass), and Rick Coonce (drums), was recruited and offered the choice of recording under their own name, or to take over the name the Grass Roots, put themselves in the hands of Sloan and Barri, and take advantage of the Grass Roots' track record. They chose the latter, with Rob Grill as primary lead vocalist. The first track cut by the new Grass Roots in the spring of 1967 was "Let's Live for Today," a new version of a song that had been an Italian hit, in a lighter, more up-tempo version, for a band called the Rokes. "Let's Live for Today" was an achingly beautiful, dramatic, and serious single and it shot into the Top Ten upon its release in the summer of 1967. An accompanying album, Let's Live for Today, only reached number 75. The group began spreading its wings in the studio with their next album, Feelings, recorded late in 1967, which emphasized the band's material over Sloan and Barri's. This was intended as their own statement of who they were, but it lacked the commercial appeal of anything on Let's Live for Today, sold poorly, and never yielded any hit singles. Eleven months went by before the group had another chart entry, and during that period, Sloan and Barri's partnership broke up, with Sloan departing for New York and an attempt at a performing career of his own. The band even considered splitting up as all of this was happening. The Grass Roots' return to the charts (with Barri producing), however, was a triumphant one -- in the late fall of 1968, "Midnight Confessions" reached number five on the charts and earned a gold record. "Midnight Confessions" showed the strong influence of Motown, and the R&B flavor of the song stuck with Barri and the band.
In April of 1969, Creed Bratton left the band, to be replaced by Denny Provisor on keyboards and Terry Furlong on lead guitar. Now a quintet, the Grass Roots went on cutting records without breaking stride, enjoying a string of Top 40 hits that ran into the early '70s, peaking with "Temptation Eyes" at number 15 in the summer of 1971. Coonce and Provisor left at the end of 1971, to be replaced by Reed Kailing on lead guitar, Virgil Webber on keyboards, and Joel Larson -- of the original Bedouins/Grass Roots outfit -- on drums. They arrived just in time to take advantage of the number 16 success of "Two Divided by Love," which was the last of the Grass Roots' big hits. The Grass Roots soldiered on for a few more years, reaching the Top 40 a couple of times in 1972, but their commercial success slowly slipped away during 1973. They kept working for a few more years, but called it quits in 1975. Rob Grill remained in the music business on the organizing side, and by 1980 was persuaded by his friend John McVie to cut a solo album, Uprooted, which featured contributions by Mick Fleetwood and Lindsay Buckingham. By 1982, amid the burgeoning oldies concert circuit and the respect beginning to be accorded the Grass Roots, Grill formed a new Grass Roots -- sometimes billed as Rob Grill and the Grass Roots -- and began performing as many as 100 shows a year. Their presence on various oldies package tours saw to it that the Grass Roots' name remained visible. Grill continued performing with later incarnations of the band into the 2000s; however, he endured the pain of degenerative bone disease for years and in June 2011 suffered a head injury. The following month Grill died in Tavares, Florida of complications from that injury at the age of 67.
Wikipedia:For other uses, see Grass roots (disambiguation).
The Grass Roots is an American rock band that charted frequently between 1966 and 1975. It was originally the creation of Lou Adler and songwriting duo P. F. Sloan and Steve Barri. In their career, they achieved two gold albums, one gold single and charted singles a total of 21 times. Among their charting singles, they achieved Top 10 three times, Top 20 three times and Top 40 eight times. They have sold over twenty million records worldwide.
Until his death in 2011, early member Rob Grill and a newer lineup of the Grass Roots continued to play many live performances each year. Currently, band members chosen by Grill are carrying on the legacy of the group with nationwide live performances.Whitburn, Joel (Jan 2000). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits (7th ed.). Watson-Guptill Publications. p. 262. ISBN 0-8230-7690-3. Grass Roots at Allmusic "The Grassroots official website". The-grassroots.com. Retrieved 2014-11-29.
The founding years
The name "Grass Roots" (originally spelled as one word "Grassroots") originated in mid-1965 as the name of a band project by the Los Angeles, California songwriter and producer duo of P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri. Sloan and Barri had written several songs in an attempt by their record company, Dunhill Records (owned by Lou Adler), to cash in on the budding folk rock movement. One of these songs was "Where Were You When I Needed You," which was recorded by Sloan and Barri. Sloan provided the lead vocals and played guitar, Larry Knechtel played keyboards, Joe Osborn played the bass and Bones Howe was on drums. The song was released under "The Grass Roots" name and sent, as a demo, to several radio stations of the San Francisco Bay area.
When moderate interest in this new band arose, Sloan and Barri went to look for a group that could incorporate the Grass Roots name. They found one in a San Francisco band, The Bedouins, and cut a new version of "Where Were You When I Needed You" with that band's lead vocalist, Willie Fulton.
In late 1965, the Grass Roots got their first official airplay on Southern California radio stations, such as KGB (AM) in San Diego and KHJ in Los Angeles, with a version of the Bob Dylan song "Mr. Jones (Ballad of a Thin Man)".
For some months, the group were the first "real" Grass Roots — but the partnership with Sloan and Barri broke up when the band demanded more space for their own more blues rock-oriented material (which their producers were not willing to give them). Willie Fulton (lead vocals, guitar,) Denny Ellis (guitar, backing vocals) and David Stensen (bass, backing vocals) went back to San Francisco, with drummer Joel Larson being the only one who remained in LA (he was to become a member of a later Grass Roots line-up as well). Fulton, Ellis and Stensen, with original Bedouins drummer Bill Shoppe, for a time, continued to appear as the Grass Roots until Dunhill ordered them to cease since they'd decided to start all over again with another group they would groom to be the Grass Roots. In the meantime, the second version of "Where Were You When I Needed You" peaked in the Top 40 in mid-1966, while an album of the same name sold poorly.
Still looking for a group to record their material and promote it with live dates, in 1966 Sloan and Barri offered Wisconsin-based band The Robbs (for whom they produced some early material) a chance to assume the identity of the Grass Roots, but the group declined.Hartman, Kent (2012). The Wrecking Crew. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 169–172. ISBN 978-0-312-61974-9. "The Grassroots official website". The-grassroots.com. Retrieved 2014-11-26.
The years of success
The group's third — and by far most successful — incarnation was finally found in a Los Angeles band called The 13th Floor (not to be confused with the 13th Floor Elevators). This band consisted of Creed Bratton (vocals, guitar), Rick Coonce (drums, percussion), Warren Entner (vocals, guitar, keyboards), and Kenny Fukomoto (vocals, bass) and had formed only a year earlier. Entner, who had been attending film school at UCLA alongside future Doors members Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek, was drifting through Europe in the summer of 1965 singing and playing on street corners, when he met fellow busker and American Creed Bratton in Israel, where an Israeli businessman expressed interest in managing and promoting them. But the duo moved on individually and ended up back in LA by 1966, where they formed the 13th Floor and submitted a demo tape to Dunhill Records. After Fukomoto was suddenly drafted into the army, the group went through two replacements before finding singer/bassist Rob Grill. In 1967 the band was offered the choice to go with their own name or choose to adopt a name that had already been heard of nationwide.
In the beginning, they were one of many U.S. guitar pop/rock bands, but with the help of Barri and their other producers, they developed a unique sound for which they drew as heavily on British beat as on soul music, rhythm and blues and folk rock. Many of their recordings featured a brass section, which was a novelty in those days among American rock bands, with groups like Chicago just developing.
The bulk of the band's material continued to be written by Dunhill Records staff (not only Sloan and Barri) and the LA studio-musicians who were part of what became known as the Wrecking Crew played the music on most, if not all, of their hits. The Grass Roots also recorded songs written by the group's musicians, which appeared on their albums and the B-sides of many hit singles.
As the Grass Roots, they had their first Top 10 hit in the summer of 1967 with "Let's Live for Today", an English-language cover version of "Piangi con me", a 1966 hit for the Anglo-Italian quartet The Rokes. "Let's Live for Today" sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc. With Rob Grill as lead singer, they recorded a third version of "Where Were You When I Needed You." The band continued in a similar hit-making vein for the next five years (1967–1972).
The Grass Roots played at the Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival on Sunday, June 11, 1967, in the "Summer of Love" as "Let's Live for Today" was at #15 and climbing. This music festival is important because it occurred just days before the Monterey Pop Festival but did not have a movie to document it (see List of electronic music festivals).
In late 1967, the band recorded the album Feelings, which featured much heavier input in the songwriting and playing by the group members themselves. But its failure to sell prompted Barri to take full hold of the reins again as he began to move the band in a more R&B, horn punctuated, direction. By this time, Sloan had phased out of his involvement with the band and relocated to NYC to pursue a solo career.
On Sunday, October 27, 1968, the Grass Roots played at the San Francisco Pop Festival as their hit "Midnight Confessions" (their first record to feature horns and with Carol Kaye playing the opening bass-line) was peaking at #5 and then played at the Los Angeles Pop Festival and Miami Pop Festival in December 1968.
Creed Bratton became frustrated by Dunhill's refusal to allow the band to write its own songs and play the instruments on its records (although the members did play alone at concerts). After a disastrous appearance at the Fillmore West in April 1969, a "slightly inebriated" Bratton was asked to leave the band. He was replaced by Dennis Provisor on keyboards and vocals, and lead guitarist Terry Furlong (1969–1971) was also brought in to form a quintet. This was the first of many line-up changes for this version of the band.
The Grass Roots, with their new members, played at Newport Pop Festival 1969 at Devonshire Downs, which was a racetrack at the time but now is part of the North Campus for California State University, Northridge. The group played on Sunday June 22, 1969, a week before their hit "I'd Wait A Million Years" reached the Hot 100. In Canada they played at the Vancouver Pop Festival at the Paradise Valley Resort in British Columbia in August 1969 (see List of electronic music festivals).
By 1971 Furlong had stopped touring with the group to pursue a solo career but would continue to contribute on the records during the rest of their time on Dunhill. His touring replacement was Brian Naughton, who left in 1972. Drummer Rick Coonce was gone as well by the beginning of 1972 and new members Joe Pollard (drums, percussion) and another guitarist named Terry (last name unknown) joined up. Terry was soon replaced by Reed Kailing (vocals, guitars). However, drummer Pollard and keyboardist Dennis Provisor left soon after to go out as a duo (although Provisor was featured on the band's 1972 Move Along album) and were replaced by a returning Rick Coonce and keyboard man Virgil Weber (ex-Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds and Climax). Coonce was back for only a short period before he was gone again, turning the drum throne over to original member Joel Larson. Singers Rob Grill and Warren Entner remained the point of focus during these years.
The group's songs during 1967–1972 include: "Let's Live for Today" (U.S. #8) and "Things I Should Have Said" (U.S. #23) (1967); "Midnight Confessions" (U.S. #5, their biggest hit) (1968); "Bella Linda" (a cover of an Italian hit by Lucio Battisti, "Balla Linda") (U.S. #28), "Lovin' Things" (a cover of a UK hit by Marmalade the previous year) (U.S. #49), "The River is Wide" (U.S. #31), "I'd Wait a Million Years" (U.S. #15), and "Heaven Knows" (U.S. #24) (1969); "Walking Through the Country" (U.S. #44), and "Baby Hold On" (U.S. #35) (1970); "Temptation Eyes" (#15), "Sooner or Later" (U.S. #9), and "Two Divided by Love" (U.S. #16) (1971); "Glory Bound" (U.S. #34) and "The Runway" (U.S. #39) (1972).
By 1974, the Grass Roots had left Dunhill (now ABC Records) and Kailing, Weber and longtime member Entner (later a successful manager with groups such as Rage Against the Machine and Quiet Riot) moved on, while former members Terry Furlong and Dennis Provisor returned to the fold. Furlong soon left permanently to be succeeded by Gene Barkin, then by Reggie Knighton. The resulting group was Grill, Larson, Provisor and Knighton. Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, who had penned the group's 1971 hit "Two Divided By Love" and many others, invited the band to join their Haven label, where they released an eponymous album, The Grass Roots, containing the single "Mamacita", which charted at #71 on the Billboard Hot 100. Follow-up singles failed to chart.
Timeline"Biography". The-grassroots.com. Retrieved 2011-10-10. Cite error: The named reference The_Wrecking_Crew was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 222. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
ContentsThe later years1.1 1976 to 19811.2 1982 to 19931.3 1994 to 20111.4 2012 to present
The later years
1976 to 1981
Their 1976 single "Out In The Open" proved to be their swan song on Haven. Knighton left in 1976 and Alan Deane took over, followed by guitarist Glen Shulfer in 1977. ABC Records issued a final greatest hits package of the group titled ABC Collection in 1976. But in late 1977, Grill decided to take a break from performing and later recorded the 14 Greats album on Gusto Records featuring himself and Provisor. This album consisted of 1978 rerecordings of their hits.
The group, still managed and booked by Grill (who owned the group's name), continued touring with Larson, Mark Miller (lead vocals, guitar) and Brian Carlyss (bass, backing vocals), joined by Lonnie Price (lead vocals, keyboards) and Randy Ruff (organ, backing vocals) for touring dates and TV appearances until November 1978. Larson was then joined by new players Scott Hoyt (lead vocals, guitars), David Nagy (lead vocals, bass) and Gene Wall (keyboards). Nagy and Larson left in 1979 and were replaced by a returning Carlyss and Reagan McKinley (drums, percussion).
During this period, the group appeared on an HBO television special, "60's Rock Scrapbook", filmed at Magic Mountain amusement park in Valencia, California in October 1979, with Grill and Dennis Provisor making special appearances.
Grill launched a solo career in 1979 (assisted on his solo album, Uprooted, by Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie of Fleetwood Mac on the song "Rock Sugar"). Grill toured as a solo act in 1979-1980 opening for Fleetwood Mac's Tusk Tour.
When interest in bands of the 1960s began to rise again in 1980, Grill (along with Provisor, Shulfer, and new players Steve Berendt (bass) and Luke Meurett (drums) took back the Grass Roots name and toured the United States and Japan. The group's 1981 roster included Grill, Provisor, Shulfer and a returning Coonce. Also, drummer Larson and guitarist Miller were back to sub a few dates with the group in 1981.
1982 to 1993
In 1982, Grill decided to go forward with a brand new lineup consisting of seasoned session players. They were Terry Oubre (guitars, backing vocals), Charles Judge (keyboards, synthesizers, backing vocals) and Ralph Gilmore (drums, percussion, backing vocals). Another keyboardist, Bob Luna, came in in mid-1982 to sub for Judge on dates when he wasn't available. That same year, the new band released Powers of the Night on MCA. This would be the last album of new material to be released by the Grass Roots.
Later in 1982, the Grass Roots performed an Independence Day concert on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., attracting a large crowd and setting a record for attendance (over half a million people), at that time, for an outdoor concert for a single musical act. However, in April 1983, James G. Watt, President Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Interior, banned Independence Day concerts on the Mall by such groups. Watt said that "rock bands" that had performed on the Mall on Independence Day in 1981 and 1982 had encouraged drug use and alcoholism and had attracted "the wrong element", who would mug people and families attending any similar events in the future. During the ensuing uproar, Grill stated that he felt "highly insulted" by Watt's remarks, which he called "nothing but un-American".
After Powers failed to attract much attention, Grill brought in new players named George Spellman (guitars, backing vocals), Dave Rodgers (keyboards, backing vocals) and Coy Fuller (drums, percussion) in late 1983 and headed over to tour Europe. According to Grill, there was also a country single, "St. Somewhere", recorded in Nashville with this same lineup. This single was never released.
By May 1984, Grill had returned to the US and was touring with another new group of Grass Roots that included Dusty Hanvey (guitars, backing vocals), Larry Nelson (keyboards, synthesizers, backing vocals) and David Page (drums, percussion). This lineup's first show was in Okinawa.
From this point on, Grill and the group would concentrate on the lucrative "60s nostalgia" circuit, starting with the Happy Together 85 Tour with fellow 1960s groups The Turtles, The Buckinghams and Gary Lewis & the Playboys.
In 1986 another package had them appearing with The Monkees, Gary Puckett, and Herman's Hermits. They were joined in this show by bassist Mark Clarke (ex-Uriah Heep and Rainbow) and a horn section, and backed up the Monkees and Gary Puckett during their sets as well.
Hanvey and Nelson continued backing the Monkees for their 1987 tour, while the Grass Roots joined Classic Superfest, which also featured Herman's Hermits, Mark Lindsay, and Gene Clark's Byrds. For this tour, Mark Tamorsky handled guitar and Michael Lewis (soon replaced by Robbie Barker) was on keyboards. Terry Danauer was also added on bass at this point. But by October 1987, Hanvey and Nelson were back with Grill and Joe Dougherty replaced David Page on drums in 1989.
In 1991 Rhino Records released a double CD anthology of the group sparking renewed interest in the band.
Mike Steck came in for Danauer on bass in 1992-1993 before Grill took over bass again. From hereon the band's lineup was stable.
1994 to 2011
In 2000 Grill released a Grass Roots live concert album titled Live At Last, which was followed in 2001 by an album with a symphonic quartet titled Symphonic Hits.
During the 2000s, the group regulars had available substitutes (former Outsiders singer Sonny Geraci sat in for Grill during the first half of 2002, Scott Sechman filled in for Hanvey in 1998, Chris Merrell filled in for Hanvey on various dates 2000-2006, while Hal Ratliff came in for Nelson when he had other commitments from 2000 on).
In 2008 Grill released a second live concert album titled Live Gold and brought in Mark Dawson (vocals, bass) earlier that same year to fill in when he was absent.
During the summers of 2010 and 2011, the Grass Roots had heavy touring schedules throughout the U.S., both on their own and as part of the Happy Together: 25th Anniversary Tour, along with Flo & Eddie of The Turtles, Mark Lindsay, The Buckinghams, and Monkees member Micky Dolenz (2010 only). Since the mid 70's, Grill led the band into the current millennium as the Grass Roots sole owner and made appearances with the band until his death.
Rick Coonce died of heart failure on February 25, 2011 and Rob Grill died of stroke on July 11, 2011.
2012 to present
In 2012 the group was again part of the Happy Together Tour and the current band chosen by Grill of Dawson, Dougherty, Hanvey and Nelson continue to tour nationwide. Oftentimes they appear with other classic rock groups such as John Kay and Steppenwolf, Tommy James and The Shondells, The Buckinghams, Herman's Hermits starring Peter Noone and April Wine to name a few. They frequently appear at popular resorts and casinos located across the USA as the headlining act.
Paradise Artists announced that the Grass Roots would join The Turtles, The Association, Mark Lindsay, The Buckinghams and The Cowsills for the Happy Together Tour 2015."July 4: Day of Music, Parades, Fireworks", The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., July 3, 1982, p. D1. Phil McCombs, "Watt Outlaws Rock Music on Mall for July 4", The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., April 6, 1983, p. A1; Phil McCombs and Richard Harrington, "Watt Sets Off Uproar with Music Ban", The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., April 7, 1983, pp. A1, A17. "The Grassroots official website". The-grassroots.com. Retrieved 2014-11-29. McQuistion, James (April 30, 2011). "Happy Together Tour Returns in Summer 2011". Retrieved 2011-05-12.